(ARCH009) Understanding Human Environments in British Prehistory

prehistoric cave painting of a bison


Course start date: Tuesday 22nd April 2025
Course end date: Friday 27th June 2025
Early Bird Price: £135

Tutor: Dr Tina Tuohy
Course Code: ARCH009
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory. There will be an opportunity to undertake an an optional essay of 1500-2500 words. If you choose to do this you will not receive a mark or grade, but you will receive feedback from the tutor on your work.
Duration: 10 weeks
Estimated Student Study Time: 2 – 5 hours per week are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Price: £150.00
Pre-Requisite Course(s): None
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.
Recommended Reading**:

A recommended reading list is provided within the course.

Required Reading**: None

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Dr Tina Tuohy when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. It has been revised and updated since then, but f you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure.


This course moves through prehistory chronologically, starting with the closure of the last Ice Age and continues to the end of the 1st Millennium BC. However, it differs from the Introduction to British Prehistory Earlier Period and Introduction to British Prehistory Later Period courses in that it does not attempt to present and discuss all of the archaeological evidence. Rather it chooses aspects of each period to best illustrate the different ways in which we might examine ‘the environment’. Because the course tackles prehistoric evidence thematically, rather than chronologically, we are free to explore those transition phases between traditional archaeological boundaries, for instance between the Mesolithic and the Neolithic and between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. A recurring theme in the course will be the questions ‘What changed?” and “What did not change?” These questions will specifically be asked with reference to environmental issues. In order to examine the evidence thematically the Units deal with 5 different possible interpretations of ‘environment’:

  • Environment as resource: The module examines evidence for contemporary societies with different food and resource procuring strategies and what this means in terms of their relationship with the environment.
  • Environment as place: This interpretation of ‘environment’ allows us to consider the creation and manipulation of space and place in domestic and monumental contexts.
  • Environment as landscape: Prehistoric monuments, are considered in the choice of their siting, their relationship with landscape features, their aspect views, and the extended relationship with the environment beyond the monument itself.
  • Environment as spirit: This section will consider what bog bodies can tell us about the first millennium perception of raised bog environments and explores the potential significance of the ritual deposition of Bronze Age metalwork in rivers and lakes.
  • Environment as ecosystem: Emphasis is placed throughout on considering prehistoric evidence within its contemporary environmental setting. Through a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction in a holistic sense.

Syllabus Plan

Week 01: Prehistoric Archaeology and Human Environments.
Week 02: Humans at the End of the Last Ice Age.
Week 03: A Deciduous Jungle?
Week 04: Domestication of Plants and Animals.
Week 05: Evidence for Food Getting.
Week 06: The Significance of Monuments.
Week 07: Wetlands and Wetland Archaeology.
Week 08: Bog Bodies.
Week 09: Sacred Sites and Ritual Deposits.
Week 10: Anthropocentric Interpretations and the Human Niche.

Learning Outcomes

Learners should be able:

  • To consider what the term ‘environment’ means to you and what it might have meant to different prehistoric populations.
  • To allow you to consider the archaeological evidence of different places and periods in their contemporary environmental context.
  • To become familiar with and critical of the way in which prehistoric activity in the landscape has been interpreted in the past and to begin to consider alternative approaches.
  • To broaden your perception of past human activity as part of an ecological whole.
  • To examine the different theoretical and practical approaches emerging in the developing fields of environmental and landscape archaeology.